The business of business is business. So said American Economist Milton Friedman who argued that a business entity’s greatest responsibility is maximizing revenues.
The business of business is business. Or in other words the purpose or mission of a business entity is to make money.
The interesting thing about that phrase is that the word business has three different meanings.
The business, meaning purpose or mission
Of business, meaning financial entity
Is business, meaning the job of making money
So according to Milton Friedman, the business of business is profit.
But what is your business? And I don’t mean:
“what do you do to make money, necessarily.”
I mean: What is your purpose in life?
You might reply: Mind your own business, Harry
You might reply: I’m taking care of business.
And you might actually think about it and determine what your purpose or mission in life is…
I am thinking about what your business is, or what my business is, because about a month or so ago, I heard a sermon preached saying that the main business of the church is evangelism.
What is evangelism? Good question because the definitions vary.
Some say: it is the preaching of the gospel, or communicating of the gospel, with the intention of inviting others to follow Jesus Christ.
This minister preached an uncomfortable sermon challenging us, maybe even chastising the Presbyterian church and its congregations that most congregations are not about the business of the church, which according to him is evangelization.
They do worship and pastoral care. They do education and fellowship, but most do very little evangelization.
They don’t do enough to communicate the gospel and invite people to church, and to follow Jesus.
Now that was his opinion that the main business of the church is evangelization.
Some think evangelization is about growing one’s congregation, and they talk about business models of advertising and getting the message out, and selling your congregation.
Whoopi Goldberg, as Delores, had her own version of what evangelization is in the movie Sister Act. ‘y’know, get some butts in the seats.
And Reverend Mother replies : And what next? Popcorn? Curtain calls? This is not a theater or a casino.
And Delores says: Yeah, but that's the problem. See, people like going to theaters, and they like going to casinos, but they don't like coming to church. Why? Because it's a drag. But we could change all that, see? We could pack this joint.
And Delores gets a really good choir and it ends up packing the church and the Pope visits the church at the end of the movie.
But that is fiction. We have a really good choir, but this place isn’t filled every Sunday, although Christmas Eve is pretty good.
So, what do you think? Should the purpose of church to get more butts in the seats.
My ego, and our treasurer and board and session would not be unhappy with more butts in the seats.
We would love it if you were all here every Sunday rocking the place with singing and worship and love and friendship.
But I digress a bit from the question of what the business of the church really is…
Is the main business of the church evangelism? Again, one definition is: the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ and inviting people to follow Jesus.
Is that the main business of the church?
Well, today we heard scripture from the gospel of Luke from chapter 2. One of the best-known scriptures, about the birth of Jesus.
Listen again to what the angel of the Lord told the shepherds:
Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
I am bringing you good news. The Greek word for good news is evangel. Evangel is also translated “gospel.”
The gospel of Luke is the good news according to Luke.
And Evangelism is about in some way sharing or telling or living the good news.
What is the good news? The good news to the shepherds that day was about Jesus. That Jesus was born and that Jesus was their Saviour, their Messiah or Christ and their Lord.
But in order to really understand the good news I guess you would have to read the gospels and see that the whole life of Jesus is good news to us.
And why, because Jesus comes and tells a different story about God, than what the people thought God was about.
They thought the God business was all about following, the law. Following the rules, and if you didn’t, God would squash you like a bug.
They thought the God business was all about being holy and perfect and separate and different then all the riff-raff, all the sinners, all the foreigners, all the unclean, all the poor and sick who had been cursed by God, because if you weren’t clean enough, you weren’t good enough for God.
They thought God was in the cursing and punishment and judging business to all but a very few, and while God could be merciful to those who are sorry, look out if you crossed God.
They thought God was in the sacrifice business and; the better the animal, the purer the animal, the more expensive the animal, or sometimes even the younger the animal, that you sacrificed then God would be pleased, and would act in your favour.
They thought God was in the business of controlling everything, so that if you were rich, it must be because God made you that way, and if you were poor or sick, then that was because God was punishing you for your sin. You really didn’t have choice. God was playing all the cards.
But Jesus had a different story about God. Jesus taught, and Jesus lived and died and rose again to show that God was in the love business.
The good news of the gospel, and the reason Jesus came was for us, is for us to know that God loves us, values us, treasures us, saves us, forgives us and transforms us.
God didn’t send Jesus to condemn us or punish us, but to save us to love each other. To save us to do good works. To save us to do justice. To save us to forgive one another. To save us to make peace instead of war or violence. To save us to include and lift up the outcast and different and people who are devalued. To save us to value and treasure each and every other human being as a child of God, made in the image of God.
And Jesus proved this love by dying on a cross, and even though we humans killed Jesus, he pronounced forgiveness on us.
On the cross Jesus was saying in effect, that you can kill me and I will still love you.
And his resurrection was proof that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even death itself.
God is in the love business. That is good news. And that good news I think we should be sharing with one another.
And not just verbally sharing. If God is in the love business and Jesus is in the love business, then Jesus just doesn’t want you to talk about love, but to actually love.
One of the most poignant moments in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has the ghost of Scrooge’s former business partner Jacob Marley paying him an uninvited visit. “You were always a good businessman,” Scrooge tells the ghost. The ghost replies, “Humankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
And today God is saying to you, that you are God’s business. And that love and forgiveness and patience and understanding and good will to you, are God’s business. And that is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus was born.
To save you to love. To transform you to love. That you would die to selfishness and greed and be born again to love.
I know that the church has been in decline for some time and there are less butts in the seats know than there were years ago.
I think it is because the church as an institution was not always in the business of love, or maybe I should say, did not always know how to love.
Sometimes it was in the judging business, or the imperial colonization business, or the power business, or the excluding business.
And so, the church has struggled lately with butts in the seats. And to be perfectly honest, the pandemic has not helped either.
Now, the best reason I know for not putting your butt in a pew on Sunday mornings is, that there is a good chance that the person sitting next to you will be just as screwed up and broken and sinful as you.
But the best reason I know for putting your butt in seat on Sunday mornings, here at First Presbyterian, is that every Sunday we worship Jesus who is in the love business; and every Sunday we talk to Jesus, and we are forgiven by Jesus, and we give to Jesus, and we listen to Jesus and we sing to Jesus, and we share with Jesus and each other, and we love Jesus and we love one another, and we commit ourselves to the same business Jesus is in. Love.
Behold I bring you good news of a great joy. God means business. This very day is born to you Jesus, who is God’s love to you.